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Just Patrick
Just Patrick

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The question is not can you build it, but rather should you build it

Its widely known that execution is more important than the idea. Millions of people have great, possibly world changing ideas, every day, but none come into existence. For the few that set out to pursue their ideas its is a rough journey littered with failure. Most ideas fail due to poor execution. Great products come from widely known ideas which are finally executed well. Of course there are plenty of books, talks, videos and studies dedicated to learning and mastering execution but that's not where I want to focus. I want us to address those wonderful ideas that should never be made. Yes, ohh yes, you read that right.

See there is a big flaw in the minds of creative people. They get so hung up in the adrenaline rush of creating that they don't notice the impact of what their making. From the guy who made the atomic bomb to the guy who invented pop up ads it is evident that there are many great minds that regret what they made. At the time they thought it was a great idea or were driven by the challenge or foolishly only focused on the goods and ignored the bads, only to have their 'babies' turn into monsters. As a software developer you bear the greatest power in humanity and you choose whether to use it for good or for bad.

I've always wondered what goes into the minds of the developers that make the systems that are destroying society. Systems designed to make users spend hours upon hours in this apps and websites while forsaking all other responsibilities. Systems with aggressive data collection that is sold to the highest bidder. What about the social engineers who helped build these toxic features, do they regret anything? Or maybe they just needed the money to feed their families. Is that a valid enough reason? I pondered these questions in a high and mighty mindset. "Am better than them" "I would never do that". But something happened that made me rethink all this.

I wanted to get some analytics for FLB Music, a music player I made. Basically in wanted to get info on the number of times a user opens the app and its resource usage. So I set it all up and added it to the next update. Here's a screenshot of the data am collecting stored in supabase.
FLB User Data Screenshot
After getting analytics from the first 50 or so users I got excited. I don't know how to explain but I felt powerful. Something about getting incite on a someones setup had me in an adrenaline rush. "What more could I find out?" "What if I collected this also?" It was at that moment that I realized the power a user gave me over their machine when they installed the app. There was a time I even wanted to collect their ipaddress and then it hit me. What am I thinking. "Is this how it starts?" Sure I could collect even more data to improve the app but how much was too much. There is no real limit. It was easy to come up with some reason why collecting a certain type of data would help in its development. But no. What if the data got leaked? What if I got acquired and had to give access to some malicious company. And this is where this whole thought train began.

Its time we developers start thinking about the impact of our code on the lives of people not just on the time they spend on our platforms. Too many companies and developers have become too growth oriented to the point of building destructive systems. Systems made to keep users there for hours, systems built to boost propaganda and negativity to peak attention, systems over capitalizing on the dopamine feedback loop to turn the apps and websites into drugs, systems with no regard for privacy as they view users as money machines. Take a break from your 10x 13 hour coding session and your 3 hour user journey map meeting and look at people as not just users but as humans. We do not need another social media app or another video creation or conferencing app. We don't need another robot in our houses to put our kids to sleep or turn on the lights. It doesn't matter how complex your AI model is built we don't need it. Why so much aggression against technology? Well its because I am tired of people being fed lies of how this new feature or technology will "improve their lives". The movie Wall E is not just some animation, I believe it was a prediction. A life where people are glued to their screens switching from one app to the other with their entire lives controlled by some algorithm. I am not naive, I know that we will not be able to escape that future, but you can choose to not be part of its creators.

Before you sit down to make that new feature or implement that new idea, please consider the negatives of birthing it. But this is all my opinion, don't get too offended. This is just an expression of my love hate relationship with tech.

Shameless plug: Check out FLB Music

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